Another botched terrorist attack on a plane, another silly TSA rule. Apparently airline passengers are being told to stay in their seats for the final hour of flights and not to have anything in their laps.
Passengers getting off flights from overseas reported being told that they couldn’t get out of their seat for the last hour of their flight. Air Canada also said that during the last hour passengers won’t be allowed access to carry-on baggage or to have any items on their laps.
Uh, are we to believe that terrorists will cease and desist if they don’t think they can down a plane in its final hour of flight? Al-Qaeda only counts a terrorist attack as successful if it occurs near the plane’s final destination? Bring the plane down at 75 minutes out and you don’t get your 72 virgins?
Some inconvenience is inevitable in trying to protect flights from terrorists. But inconvenience should not become a substitute for vigilance. Yet again, the TSA seems to think it is more important to appear to be doing something than to be doing something useful.
Bad news for the Obama administration and Democrats who want to run the economy. According to Rasmussen Reports:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 30% of voters nationwide believe the $787-billion economic stimulus plan has helped the economy. However, 38% believe that the stimulus plan has hurt the economy. This is the first time since the legislation passed that a plurality has held a negative view of its impact.
The number who believe that the stimulus plan has hurt the economy rose from 28% in September, to 31% in October, and 34% in November before jumping to 38% this month. The week after the president signed the bill, 34% said it would help the economy, while 32% said it would hurt.
The Political Class has a much different view than the rest of the county. Ninety percent (90%) of the Political Class believes the stimulus plan helped the economy and not a single Political Class respondent says it has hurt. (See more on the Political Class).
The underlying reason for skepticism about the stimulus plan is that 50% of voters believe increasing government spending is bad for the economy. Just 28% believe that increased government spending helps the economy.
Obviously, the American people have seen through the Obama program. Now they need to make their views heard on Capitol Hill before the Democratic majority does permanent damage.
With reports of Dallas’s first Christmas snow in more than 80 years, and nearly 2/3 of the lower 48 states with ground coverage of the white stuff yesterday, my friend Joe Bastardi at AccuWeather saw his bold-but-responsible forecast from early in the month fulfilled. This is what he told me shortly after I inquired with him on December 6th about the Houston snowfall two days prior:
I have been out since July with a forecast for a cold winter; the coldest since ‘02-‘03 and the coldest December for the nation since 2000! The set up for this has been in the making for over 2 years. I think this will be the most widespread white Christmas since ‘02.
Undoubtedly there is more grumbling at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research — home of the most flawed data and inadequate observing systems that millions of taxpayer dollars can buy — about the “travesty” that this lack of warming presents. You know what I’m talking about: that “sound science” that the global warming alarmists constantly cite. Funny how the for-profit AccuWeather guys are always running circles around the taxpayer-funded buffoons and leftist leeches on this stuff.
Tell ‘em again how it works, Phil?
That’s what the White House is calling an incident aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 today, in which a Nigerian man, who claims to be affiliated with al Qaeda, attempted to set off some sort of explosive device. As usual, details are still a little sketchy; it was initially reported that he set off a firecracker, while current reports say it was something “more complicated.”
Merry Christmas to friends of The American Spectator, with thanks for reading the magazine and website. Posting on both the blog and the main site will probably be light for the rest of week, but check back for breaking news and do enjoy the current postings — as well as everything the season has to offer.
I’m by nature a pessimist, but since Christmas is a hopeful time I’ll link to Ramesh Ponnuru arguing that the health care debate isn’t over yet. I find his analysis persuasive, though I do wonder how many Democratic votes Nancy Pelosi had in reserve. The Stupak amendment is the only thing that makes me suspect the answer is either none or not many. In the discussion of whether we should be mad at Republicans, the one thing that always bothered me is how the GOP could not swing one marginal Democratic vote with the legislation polling this badly.
Maybe, even with all the perks the majority party has to offer, the unpopularity will have more impact in a chamber where many Democrats have far stronger political incentives to vote no than either Olympia Snowe or Susain Collins did and where everyone is up for reelection next year. Dropping the public option and liberalizing the abortion funding may be the worst of all possible worlds in terms of the bill’s popularity. We’ll see.
A few years back Jimmy Carter published an idiotic book called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The book, and Carter’s statements in interviews promoting it, kicked off a discussion in Jewish circles about whether the former President is an anti-Semite, a question raised both by his passionate hatred for the Jewish state, and by his “feeding into conspiracy theories about excessive Jewish power and control,” in the words of Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. For those of us who had been paying close attention, these weren’t new questions; both Carter’s Israel-hatred and his tendency to indulge in conspiratorial tones when discussing US policy toward Israel (not to mention his friendship, in the 1990s, with prolific Jew-killer Yasser Arafat) were known long before the book was published.
Now Carter is asking for forgiveness:
In a letter released exclusively to JTA, the former U.S. president sent a seasonal message wishing for peace between Israel and its neighbors, and concluded: “We must recognize Israel’s achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel. As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.”
“Al Het” refers to the Yom Kippur prayer asking God forgiveness for sins committed against Him. In modern Hebrew it refers to any plea for forgiveness.
Carter assures us, by the way, that this has nothing to do with his grandson’s outreach to influencial Jewish leaders as he considers a run for state Senate. (Of course not.)
Foxman advocates giving Carter the benefit of the doubt. “When a former president reaches out to the Jewish community and asks for forgiveness, it’s incumbent of us to accept it,” he tells the AP. “To what extent this is an epiphany, only time will tell. There certainly was a lot of hurt, a lot of angry words that need to be repaired. But this is a good start.”
It’s a noble sentiment, but it’s complicated by the fact that Carter’s mea culpa came just days after he published an op-ed on Gaza written from the same cartoonish perspective he’s always had.
One might add that Carter’s habit of viewing international politics through a preposterously blinkered lens is hardly limited to Israel. Over the years Carter has lavished embarrassing praise on tyrants in Yugoslavia, Romania, Syria, Ethiopia, Haiti, North Korea, and Nicaragua. It seems rather myopic for Carter to issue an apology directed at “the Jewish community” when he owes an apology to a much wider swath of humanity.
Republican candidates now have an eight-point lead over Democrats, their biggest lead of the year, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.
The new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 36% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Support for GOP candidates held steady over the past week, but support for Democrats slipped by a point.
Perhaps this helps to explain why Parker Griffith, a freshman congressman from northern Alabama, is expected to announce today that he is switching parties. Elected as a Democrat, he is switching to the GOP because of unhappiness with national Democratic policies. Several other Democratic congressmen in swing districts have announced that they will not seek reelection next year.
A lot can happen in a year. But 2010 might not be a good year to run as a Democrat.
There’s been a lot of anger among conservatives directed at Republicans leading up to the health care bill passing the Senate this morning. Is this anger justified? My answer is yes, but I mean that in a different way than other conservatives.
Much of the criticism of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has centered around him not playing hardball, and not doing more to obstruct passage of the health care bill during the Senate debate — and ultimately breaking the vow to force a vote on Christmas Eve (as opposed to this morning). As far as I’m concerned, while this may have been more emotionally satisfying in some respects, I don’t think it would have changed the outcome. Democrats control 60 votes, and if a so-called moderate like Sen. Ben Nelson is going to sell out so easily, then there is very little McConnell could have done to affect the outcome at this late stage in the game. He also deserves credit for keeping the Republican caucus united in opposition, including Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
At the same time, I’m not going to let Republicans off that easy, because conservatives should be angry at them. The reason why we have a liberal in the White House and why Democrats control overwhelming majorities in Congress is that Republicans failed badly when they were in power. Democrats were in a position to push a government takeover of the health care system, because when Republicans controlled things, they didn’t advance free market solutions. After Hillarycare was defeated in 1994, the sentiment was that they dodged a bullet, and could go back to ignoring the issue — while Democrats were quietly plotting for the next time they were in control. Sure, health savings accounts were a good thing, but they were narrow in scope, and far overshadowed by the largest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society in the form of the Medicare prescription drug plan.
By the time this year rolled around, Democrats were in power and Republicans were discredited. Meanwhile, all of the special interest groups (insurers, drug manufacturers, hospitals, the AMA and AARP) were on the side of those in power so they could carve up the pie at the expense of the rest of us. It was going to be an uphill battle to begin with, but Republicans dithered for months, and settled on a strategy that ended up focusing on protecting Medicare from cuts rather than going after something like the individual mandate, which would have struck a blow at the heart of Obamacare.
By the time it got to the Senate floor, I don’t think any tactical decisions by McConnell could have made up for more than a decade of Republican blundering. The Democrats had the votes and a willingness to cut whatever backroom deals they needed to. They were willing to do this despite the fact that public opinion has been overwhelmingly opposed to the bill, and even though a number of Democrats put their seats in serious peril by voting for this legislation.
Shortly after 7 a.m. this morning, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding, the Senate passed the health care bill by a 60 to 39 margin.
The vote was largely a formality, because Democrats already gained the 60 votes to invoke cloture and only needed a simply majority this morning. While there was some talk of a few Democrats defecting on the final vote when they were no longer needed, ultimately, the caucus stuck together — as did Republicans. Sen. Jim Bunning was the only absent Senator.
“This is for my friend Ted Kennedy, aye” the 92-year old Sen. Robert Byrd said when he voted, according to Mike Madden.
Sen. Arlen Specter, who became the 60th vote for Democrats when he effectively switched parties earlier this year, tweeted a similar sentiment: “With the passion of Ted Kennedy on our hearts. Aye.”
Shortly after voting on the health care bill, the Senate voted by a 60 to 39 margin to raise the federal debt limit by $290 billion to $12.4 trillion. How apropos.
With the health care bill having passed the Senate, it will have to be reconciled with the version that passed the House, and a number of obstacles still remain. Among other differences, the House bill has a public option and stronger abortion language. Given that Speaker Nancy Pelosi only had 3 votes to spare when the House passed the bill the first time around by a 220 to 215 margin, she’ll have some work to do. Rep. Bart Stupak and a handful of others who voted for the bill the first time have said they couldn’t without his abortion language, while a few more liberal members have lamented the lack of a public option. And whatever is negotiated to win approval in the House cannot upset the delicate balance that enabled Reid to achieve 60 votes in the Senate. At this point, however, the smart money would have to be on Democrats doing whatever they need to do to get this across the finish line.
For several years, Jane Hamsher and her site Firedoglake have been a loud voice of the take-no-prisoners “progressives,” cheerleading the 2006 Ned Lamont campaign against Joe Lieberman.
Now, Hamsher is crying foul over the Senate health-care bill — this was not the Change she voted for — and getting a lot of ridicule from conservative bloggers like Ace of Spades. Meanwhile, some of her progressive pals are excoriating Hamsher for having appeared on the eeeevvillll Fox News. William Jacobson observes:
While Hamsher is ultra-liberal, she points out that the Senate bill will lead to increased costs on the middle class. Sure, Hamsher may be harping on a point that is not key to her agenda, but she recognizes that she needs to appeal to more conservative voters if she is to kill the bill.
This is a case of the Left understanding — for its own reasons — why the Senate bill is a monstrosity. As I mentioned the other day, at least the left-wing has some principles, even if I disagree with those principles.
The kind of disillusionment that Hamsher is now experiencing can have transformative results. David Horowitz and Peter Collier, New Left radicals in the 1960s, famously had “second thoughts” that led them into the conservative camp during the Reagan era. Tammy Bruce, a former NOW activist, has become a popular conservative talk radio host. And let us not forget that Ronald Reagan was himself once a self-described “hemophiliac liberal.”
It remains to be seen whether Hamsher’s current disillusionment will be powerful enough to cause her to reconsider her “progressive” commitments. But public opinion polls indicate that the disappointments of the Obama era are already yielding a bumper crop of those whom I called, three weeks after the 2008 election, “Future Ex-Democrats.”
The Senate just voted 60 to 39 to cut off debate on the Senate health care bill, setting up a final vote for tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.
Leading up to the vote, Democrats defeated a number of Republican points of order challenging the constitutionality of elements of the health care bill such as the individual mandate as well as the “unfunded mandate” to the states in the form of expanding Medicaid by 15 million people. Sen. Jim DeMint also attempted to add an amendment that would have changed Senate rules to bar the practice of trading votes for earmarks, but it was tabled by a 53 to 46 vote.
Once the bill clears the Senate tomorrow, it will have to be reconciled with the House bill and then pass both chambers once again.
Earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office explained that the savings generated by Democrats’ proposed Medicare cuts could either be used to finance the health care bill or to extend the solvency of Medicare, but could not do both at the same time.
Put another way, Democrats cannot claim that their bill would both strengthen Medicare and decrease the defict. But that’s exactly what Democrats have been claiming over the the past week.
For instance, here was President Obama, during his Saturday remarks after Democrats secured the 60 votes needed to pass the health care bill:
This bill with strengthen Medicare and extend the life of the program. Because it’s paid for and gets rid of waste and inefficiency in our health care system this will be the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade. In fact, we just learned from the Congressional Budget Office that this bill will reduce our deficit by $132 billion over the first decade of the program, and more than one trillion dollars in the decade after that.
And here was Sen. Harry Reid, speaking on the Senate floor in advance of the key cloture motion at 1 a.m. on Monday morning:
“And it protects America’s oldest citizens by strengthening Medicare and extending its life by nearly a decade….
“This bill also strengthens our future by cutting our towering national deficit by as much as $1.3 trillion dollars over the next 20 years – that’s trillion, with a ‘T.’ It cuts the deficit more sharply than anything Congress has done in a long time.
Similar comments have been echoed by Democrats during the several weeks that the Senate has been debating health care — it would have been nice to have the CBO memo back when it could have actually made a difference.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, has declared that the Senate bill does not represent real reform and cannot be reconciled with the version that passed the House of Representatives. Instead, she recommended killing the Senate bill and starting all over.
“The Senate health care bill is not worthy of the historic vote that the House took a month ago,” Slaughter wrote in an opinion piece appearing on CNN’s website today.
She complained that without the presence of a public option, the bill won’t lower costs and would represent a subsidy to private insurance.
“Although the art of legislating involves compromise, I believe the Senate went off the rails when it agreed with the Obama Administration to water down the reform bill and no longer include the public option,” she wrote.
She also complained that the bill would allow insurers to charge higher premiums to older people and does not repeal the antitrust exemption enjoyed by insurers.
Supporters of the weak Senate bill say “just pass it — any bill is better than no bill.”
I strongly disagree — a conference report is unlikely to sufficiently bridge the gap between these two very different bills.
It’s time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board. The American people deserve at least that.
The statement is a headache for Democratic leadership at a time when they are on the verge of passing a bill in the Senate. In the first go around, the House bill passed by a narrow 220 to 215 vote, so Speaker Nancy Pelosi only has three votes to spare. The absence of the Stupak abortion language is already going to cost her some votes among pro-life Democrats (as well as the lone Republican to vote for it, Joseph Cao), so any votes she loses on the left would have to be made up elsewhere. Any compromise to attract liberal members of the House could upset the delicate balance that achieved 60 votes in the Senate. On the other hand Rep. Jason Altmir, a Democrat who voted against the bill the first time, said “a lot” of Blue Dog Democrats could support something along the lines of the Senate bill this time around.
Via the Hill.
After allowing Democrats for weeks to argue that their Medicare cuts would both help finance the new health care legislation and extend the solvency of Medicare, the Congressional Budget Office explained today that the bill could do one or the other, but not both at the same time.
The new memo, released after Democrats have already secured 60 votes, reads:
The key point is that the savings to the HI (Medicare Hospital Insurance) trust fund under the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) would be received by the government only once, so they cannot be set aside to pay for future Medicare spending and, at the same time, pay for current spending on other parts of the legislation or on other programs. Trust fund accounting shows the magnitude of the savings within the trust fund, and those savings indeed improve the solvency of that fund; however, that accounting ignores the burden that would be faced by the rest of the government later in redeeming the bonds held by the trust fund. Unified budget accounting shows that the majority of the HI trust fund savings would be used to pay for other spending under the PPACA and would not enhance the ability of the government to redeem the bonds credited to the trust fund to pay for future Medicare benefits. To describe the full amount of HI trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government’s fiscal position.
Via Say Anything.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, after conversing with CBO director Doug Elmendorf, said that without the revenue from the Medicare cuts, the bill would actually increase deficts by nearly $300 billion, FoxNews reports.
“Either you’ve weakened the Medicare substantially or you’re going to have no money to spend on the new program that’s being created,” Sessions said. “You cannot spend this money twice.”
Byron York in effect defends Mitch McConnell here from my various recent criticisms. Now Byron is a superb reporter. First rate. He gets “scoops” frequently, and knows his stuff, and is utterly tireless. But in this post, part of his logic is, well, illogical. And as for how McConnell weighs his priorities, that’s a value judgment on McConnell’s part, but as a value judgment, I would argue that it stinks. I certainly disagree with Byron’s conclusion that McConnell used his supposedly weak bargaining position to “get as much as he could.”
First, the logic: Somehow, it is supposed to make it better that “It was Reid who wanted to leave more than McConnell.” But that is exactly my point: IF it were Reid who wanted to leave early, then it gave McConnell LOTS of bargaining power. If McConnell had said, okay, if you want to leave early, I WILL insist on finishing the full 30 hours of debate when we get back after Christmas — i.e., not have a vote on Christmas Eve — then Reid either would have had to push the vote beyond Christmas, or hold it late on Christmas Eve, NEITHER of which he wanted to do. The whole point is that, as I clearly wrote, “if the Dems want to get out of town before the ice storm, then make them do so without passing this Obamacare bill. Make it THEIR tough choice. Make THEM face the consequences of not being able to get out of town.”
Byron reports (as did a commenter named “Andrew” on this site yesterday) that in return for leaving early, McConnell scored the supposed coup of forcing a series of votes related to TARP and the debt limit when the Senate returns in January. Gee, that’s nice. We’re fighting over one-sixth of the economy, and major philosophical and constitutional issues, and McConnell is happy about another show vote or two on something, the debt limit, that NEVER EVER EVER pays big political dividends, because most of the public understands it is a pro forma vote. Again and again and again through the years the GOP makes a big deal out of the debt limit vote, and again and again and again it causes a momentary blip for about 12 hours and then people forget about it. Of course the debt matters — but Americans object not so much to the debt as to the size and intrusiveness of government, and to all the actual laws, policies, and spending decisions that cause the debt to go up.They know the debt limit vote is an effect of bad policy, not the bad policy itself.
A Senate aide says this: “We’re going to force them to vote on ending TARP, deficit control — things they don’t want to do. And it’ll be on the first day back, when everybody’s paying attention.” That’s tactically goofy. Everybody is paying attention NOW. People resent the hell out of a bill being forced down their throats without adequate time to read it, just before Christmas. This thing could have been portrayed as the Christmas Eve Massacre. NOTHING is more dramatic than a Senate leadership so bound and determined to shove a vastly unpopular major bill down the throats of the public that it forces the vote at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. THAT’s drama for you. THAT makes people angry. That’s like putting a lump of coal, AND a lump of dog droppings, in the stockings of the 60 percent of the public that is against this monstrosity. Instead, McConnell and company fold their tents, make no dramatic fuss, and fail to drive the point home.
Now, think about this. What would have happened to the debt limit vote if McConnell had stuck to his guns? As Byron himself reports, “The Senate has still not voted on a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. It has to do so by tomorrow, before lawmakers leave for the year.” So… if the debt limit MUST be raised before Christmas, too, then why not fight on that front, too? Play hardball on BOTH. Hold the debt limit hostage to the health care bill by agreeing to the debt limit vote ONLY if the final health vote is pushed off until after the New Year.
Priorities, priorities. The debt limit gets voted on about twice a year. Totally screwing up the health care laws of the country for eternity happens, oh, one time and one time only in the history of the United States. This health care bill isn’t just another piece of legislation. It’s Horatio at the Bridge. The threat of it has inspired millions of people to go to TEA Parties and town hall meetings and to write and email and call their congressmen. It is not the debt limit that has people up in arms; it’s health care. People are scared. People are not just angry but furious. And they see a congressional leadership that originally shunned them at the TEA Parties, that rode the public’s energy and leadership during this health care fight so far rather than being ahead of the curve, and that refused to do scorched-Earth tactics in the Senate to beat it.
Reid and Obama now have nearly a month to figure out how to massage the supposedly dreaded votes on the debt limit. And they also get to celebrate a HUGE HUGE victory on health care, and celebrate it now, without paying quite the same price they would have paid if the GOP had stood firm.
As a supposed tactical victory for McConnell, this is like Napoleon getting off of Elba and thinking he would return to glory. Anybody who knows history knows what happened to Napoleon next.
This bit from George Will’s column yesterday is worth repeating:
Nebraska’s Ben Nelson voted for the Senate bill after opposing both the Medicare cuts and taxes on high-value insurance plans — the heart of the bill’s financing. Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln, Indiana’s Evan Bayh and Virginia’s Jim Webb voted against one or the other. Yet they support the bill. They will need mental health care to cure their intellectual whiplash.
As red-state Democrats contemplate voting against the health care bill when their votes are not needed while siding with their leadership on the cloture votes that matter, the intellectual somersaults might continue.
While President Barack Obama has presented his federal health care takeover as an assault on the special interests, the legislation actually was written and supported by many of the very same special interests. The pharmaceutical industry is a big one.
President Obama on Monday credited the Senate for “standing up to the special interests — who’ve prevented reform for decades, and who are furiously lobbying against it now.” But the health care “reform” bill, passed late Sunday night, provides the drug companies with billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies, government-sanctioned monopolies, and mandates forcing people to buy drug insurance. At the same time, the bill doesn’t touch the industry’s existing special favors that Obama had pledged to eliminate in the name of consumers.
The biggest favor to name-brand drug companies may be the lengthy monopolies for complex drugs known as biologics. Congress has long and quietly debated how many years the Food and Drug Administration should prohibit generic versions of biologics. Generic companies proposed a five-year exclusivity period — the same protection granted to standard drugs. Name-brand companies wanted 15 years. The Senate bill, like the House bill, grants biologics a 12-year monopoly. This could keep generics off the market altogether, meaning higher costs and more drug-company profits.
The individual mandate — the Holy Grail for private health insurance companies — also spells more business for prescription-drug companies. Under the Senate bill, everyone, like it or not, will be required to buy prescription-drug insurance. Similarly, states will be forced to include prescription drug coverage in their Medicaid plans.
Then come the subsidies. By 2019, taxpayers will be providing $196 billion in annual subsidies for poor and middle-class people to buy the health insurance the bill forces them to buy. Liberal blogger Harold Pollack happily points out that this “exceeds the combined total of federal spending on Food Stamps and other nutrition assistance programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, TANF cash payments to single mothers and their children, all the National Institutes of Health,” and more.
So much for bringing “change” to Washington!
Public Policy Polling’s first poll on the Republican primary race for Senate in Kentucky shows Rand Paul leading Secretary of State Trey Grayson 44 percent to 25 percent. Paul leads Grayson 54 percent to 22 percent among voters who are unhappy with congressional Republicans and 54 percent to 18 percent among those who think the GOP has gotten too liberal. But he also leads 40 percent to 25 percent among those who are happy with the congressional Republicans’ performance in office and 38 percent to 28 percent among those who are “comfortable with where their party is ideologically.” One caveat is that neither candidate is that well known, so the race could become very fluid as they try to define each other. Here are the full results (pdf).
UPDATE: The same polling outfit finds both Paul and Grayson leading the two main declared Democratic candidates in the general election.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen fancies himself an expert on health care because his wife has been seriously ill. He says that while being in her hospital room,
I would sometimes drift to the window and look out over a city with several million people and wonder: What do they do? What do they do if they have no health insurance?
Yes, indeedy. Royalty often looks out the window and wonders about the little people.
But he understands the limits of government. He writes,
Ben Nelson did get special privileges for Nebraska, and Mary Landrieu got goodies for Louisiana. Carl Levin got a little something for Michigan; and New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont all found something under the Senate’s Christmas tree. There are mysterious provisions in the bill to favor this state or that, this hospital or that — but no money went into the pockets of members of Congress, so this is not corruption as we know it. It just smells the same.
His hubris shows when he repeats all the myths that have been used to sell this monstrosity. “Only in America can sickness send you to the poorhouse.” Jeeez. Maybe he doesn’t know that people in most European countries actually have higher out-of-pocket costs than Americans do.
But it gets worse. He writes,
Behold the uninsured. Look at them in their terror. See their faces as they are denied coverage for preexisting conditions or their looks of despair because they cannot afford insurance at all. Watch them ignore symptoms of sickness, pass up examinations or wait, often for hours and hours, for free medical services.
What? People don’t wait for care in Europe and Canada? Hellooooo! And this notion of denials for pre-existing conditions is getting really tiresome. That applies solely to new applicants in the individual market. Which means almost nobody. Yet that little item has driven this whole push to change health care for every single American.
Overnight, I actually was thinking of slightly modifying my post yesterday taking Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to task. I felt like maybe I had been a little too hard on him, in one respect. You see, my usual rule is to harshly criticize others on the right only when they violate ethics, or when they double-cross or utterly abandon their allies, or, most usually, when they themselves attack conservatives or portray conservatives, tacitly, in the same terms the left does — wackos, extremists, etc. McConnell had done none of those things. Bad tactics, and even heavy-handed insistence on bad tactics while threatening retaliation against conservatives who don’t play “team ball,” are worthy of criticism, but not on their own worthy of criticism as harsh as I gave McConnell yesterday. What made me feel comfortable doing it, though, was that his failures on health care are so much a part of a pattern, and his disdain for conservatives’ preferred strategies and tactics so longstanding, that in toto I thought they rose (or sank) to a level that made them the rough equivalent of Lindsay Graham actively insulting conservatives by callng us bigots, etc.
But, as I said, I had second thoughts. Here’s why: Because at least McConnell has indeed been working very very very hard at the strategy he did choose. Even though he is/was wrong, dead wrong, terribly wrong in choosing the strategy and tactics he chose, he at least was giving his best effort to the fight. So, maybe, I thought, I should modulate my criticism.
Well, as Fagin said in Oliver Twist, I think I better think it out again. I was right the first time. No modulation is needed. Again, from Red State: McConnell surrenders. Rather than forcing the Dems to the utter edge, for a nighttime vote on Christmas Eve, McConnell has agreed to let the vote go forward early that morning, in order to get everybody out of there before an ice storm.
This is pitiful, or rather Pitiful with a capitl “P.” If it is so important to the Dems to get this done before Christmas, well, then, make them suffer for it. On the other hand, if the Dems want to get out of town before the ice storm, then make them do so without passing this Obamacare bill. Make it THEIR tough choice. Make THEM face the consequences of not being able to get out of town.
Well, yeah, the GOP says, but what about the poor Republican staffers? Shouldn’t they get to go home?
In a word: NO. Not if it will mean the difference between the Senate passing this thing before going home to face their constituents, or not passing it before facing their constituents at Christmas. Sorry, Charlie. Some things require sacrifice. I was a staffer on the Hill for five years. I knew what I signed up for. Staffers are often unsung heroes, to be sure, and so many of them have done such yeoman’s work on all this that they deserve our thanks. But thanks do not equal giving leave to abandon the fight at such a time. This is the domestic political fight of our very lifetimes. It should be taken to the mat, to the breaking point, or to whatever other cliche applies.
If the Senate gets caught in town for Christmas, that would be Reid’s fault. He is the one, not the GOP, who insisted on passing this before Christmas, before adequate reflection, before facing costituents. For him to do so even if icy sleet is coming down and killing Christmas plans would be a powerful symbol to the public of how unreasonable Reid and the Dems are being. Or at least, that s how it should have been portrayed.
Instead, McConnell caved like an injured puppy trying to escape a grizzly bear. The vote will be early in the morning on the 24th. It will be a formality. No drama. No symbolism. Just capitulation.
So yes, that makes him a loser.
My post the other day urging libertarians, constitutionalists, and paleocons to forcefully disavow people holding certain unsavory views has somehow been turned — by a blogger arguing that “Kentucky isn’t exactly known for her sophistication and education” — into an assertion that “Rand Paul’s base is made up of ‘racists, kooks, and 9/11 nutters.’” Ooh, and “potheads” too. This is a misrepresentation of my views as this post and this column show.
What I did say is that this corner of the right should clean house of racists, anti-Semites, and 9/11 denialists both because they are profoundly wrong and because they are being used to bring discredit on the ideas of constitutionally limited government, sound money, and a restrained foreign policy. The latter set of views is accessible to and already held by a large group of people who are anything but potheads, racists or kooks. That includes a plurality of Kentucky Republicans, according to the latest Public Policy Polling survey. When gaining ground, why move back into the fever swamps?
One more item from the Quinnipiac poll Phil posted on earlier: it found voters opposed “using any public money in the health care overhaul to pay for abortions” by 72 percent to 23 percent. That makes the abortion funding provision less popular than the bill as a whole. Blue Dogs who want to bet on the fictious “segregation of funds” to conceal what is in effect taxpayer funding of abortion beware.
At Red State, Erick Erickson has the story: Sens. DeMint and Ensign, hard on the heels of a conservative movement leadership’s memo on just this matter, are going to force the Senate to vote on a constitutional point of order, with the two senators saying (rightly) that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. This is important symbolically, substantively, and perhaps legally. Symbolically, it raises the constitutional issue in the public eye as a political issue, and puts the Dems on the spot for pretending that a constitutional violation is not a constitutional violation, Substantively, it provides a chance to educate the public on the Constitution, and on the bill’s constitutional defects. Legally, it provides at least a tiny bit stronger ground for anybody to stand on if somebody wants to take this issue to court.
Under fire from C-SPAN callers who accused her of selling her health care vote for $100 million in aid to Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu on Tuesday made false claims about cost-cutting achieved by the Senate health care bill.
Asked by a C-SPAN host, “Can you specifically tell our viewers how this will lower health care costs?” Landrieu responded:
Well first of all, it’s going to lower the cost to our government over time. Again we’re spending 16 percent of our gross national product on health care. Japan, which is a competitor, and they’re a much smaller country, but they are a robust economic country in the world, they’re spending 8 percent of their GDP. Now, ours is projected to go up to 18 percent. So if we could taper this off, and stay at 16 percent, or go down to 15 percent, over time, 14 percent. That may be aggressive, but when we start bending that cost curve, the government will save money, therefore every taxpayer will save money.
She’s absolutely right that if we reduced the amount of money we spend on health care, it would save the government money. The problem is, the legislation she supports would do the exact opposite.
The government agency that is tasked with keeping tabs on total national health care expenditures — that is, the source of the 16 percent of GDP number — is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Earlier this month, CMS analyzed the Senate bill, and they found that if enacted, health care spending would swell to 20.9 percent of GDP — higher than if we simply did nothing.
The Politico is reporting that Rep. Parker Griffith (D-Ala.) will become a Republican today. The freshman represents a conservative district seen as a prime pickup opportunity for the GOP in 2010, shades of 1994-95. This illustrates the awkward position red- and purple-district Democrats find themselves in after a year of tough votes forced by the Obama administration and the congressional Democratic leadership. Barack Obama wasn’t popular in some of these districts when he was winning in 2008; he hasn’t gotten more popular in them now.
The Politico reports:
According to two senior GOP aides familiar with the decision, the announcement will take place this afternoon in Griffith’s district in northern Alabama.
Griffith’s party switch comes on the eve of a pivotal congressional health care vote and will send a jolt through a Democratic House Caucus that has already been unnerved by the recent retirements of a handful of members who, like Griffith, hail from districts that offer prime pickup opportunities for the GOP in 2010.
I await the barrage of stories in the media about how Democrats are losing moderates because the party has been hijacked by the radical leftist fringe.
For months, Democrats have been arguing that their health care bill would be deficit neutral, but the American people haven’t been buying it. A Quinnipiac poll released earlier today found that by a 73 percent to 18 percent margin, Americans don’t believe President Obama will be keep his promise that the health care bill would reduce the deficit — and just 32 percent of Democrats believe him. Evidently, Democrats have decided that the best way to confront this perception is to make even bolder claims. While initially the idea was that it wouldn’t add to the deficit, on Saturday Obama declared that the Senate bill was “the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.” Not to be outdone, Sen. Dick Durbin later boasted on the Senate floor that it was “the greatest deficit reduction bill in the history of the United States.”
The claim is based on a report by the Congressional Budget Office estimating that the Senate bill would reduce the deficits by $132 billion from 2010 to 2019. The CBO’s finding, however, was the result of a number of assumptions and accounting gimmicks that disguise the true cost of the legislation. More than half of that deficit reduction comes from the revenues generated by the Class Act — a new government-run long-term care insurance program that begins collecting premiums before it starts paying out benefits. That means that in the first decade, it reduces the deficit by $72 billion, but the CBO also tells us that it begins operating at a loss after 2029. The CBO also assumed that Democrats would allow a substantial cut in doctors payments under Medicare to actually happen, even though they already used the defense spending bill to delay the cuts until late February, at which time they are expected to reintroduce $250 billion legislation to avert those cuts over the next decade. This item alone would wipe out all of the projected deficit reduction, and then some. The Senate bill also delays 98 percent of the spending until after 2014 so that the bill will appear cheaper over the CBO’s 10-year budget window. And the CBO assumed that future lawmakers would actually enact the proposed Medicare cuts, which it noted “is often not the case for major legislation.”
But putting all of that aside, let’s just say for the sake of argument that the $132 billion deficit reduction figure is valid. It’s still worth putting in the proper context. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, cumulative deficits will be $9.1 trillion from 2010-19, while the CBO, using different assumptions, projected the deficits at $7.1 trillion. As the chart below demonstrates, the projected deficit reduction from the health care bill in its first 10 years pales in comparison to overall deficits accumulated during the same period.
Thus, by making wild statements about this being the largest deficit reduction package in history, Democrats are going to pay a political price down the road. Even if the health care legislation reduces the deficit (which I don’t think will happen), Americans won’t isolate the effect of that one bill. All they’ll care about is that a massive health care bill passed that Democrats claimed would reduce deficits, and yet there are still massive deficits.
Climate Progress’s Joe Romm says the massive weekend snowstorm in the East was exactly what alarmist climate scientists said would happen:
In any case, I have previously discussed the scientific literature, which makes clear that we have seen an increase in intense precipitation in this country, just as climate science predicted we would.
But as the Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso reminds us, a year ago Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., wrote about the global warming-caused lack of precipitation in the D.C. area:
Recently arrived residents in the northern suburbs, accustomed to today’s anemic winters, might find it astonishing to learn that there were once ski runs on Ballantrae Hill in McLean, with a rope tow and local ski club. Snow is so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don’t own a sled…
Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil and its carbon cronies continue to pour money into think tanks whose purpose is to deceive the American public into believing that global warming is a fantasy.
Didn’t Ozzy have something to say about these unhappy people?
Via Ed Morrissey, I see this illuminating interview in which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that under the Senate health care bill, everybody purchasing a health care policy on the new government-run exchange would have to pay into a fund to finance abortion coverage for others. The interview was conducted by that BlogHer’s Morra Aarons-Mele. Transcript, and video, below.
SEBELIUS: And I would say that the Senate language, which was negotiated by Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, who are very strong defenders of women’s health services and choices for women, take a big step forward from where the House left it with the Stupak amendment, and I think do a good job making sure there are choices for women, making sure there are going to be some plan options, and making sure that while public funds aren’t used, we are not isolating, discriminating against, or invading the privacy rights of women. That would be an accounting procedure, but everybody in the exchange would do the same thing, whether you’re male or female, whether you’re 75 or 25, you would all set aside a portion of your premium that would go into a fund, and it would not be earmarked for anything, it would be a separate account that everyone in the exchange would pay.
BLOGHER: It’s a bit confusing, but …
SEBELIUS: Okay. It is a bit confusing, but it’s really an accounting that would apply across the board and not just to women, and certainly not just to women who want to choose abortion coverage.
BLOGHER: Oh, that’s good, that’s good.
It’s a commonplace that “reform” opponents are lying, distorting, and misinforming their way to “reform” obstruction, Matt Welch has a very good post consolidating and updating Barack Obama’s own similar activities. It hits on quite a few subtle points — the difference between reducing the deficit and spending less, distorting the Congressional Budget Office’s projections, etc.— and how the administration is exploiting those subtleties.
The purpose is to reinforce Obama’s own point: “If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out.” Live by the sword…
A new Quinnipiac poll finds that independents oppose Democrats’ health care legislation by a 58 percent to 30 percent margin — or nearly 2-to-1. Among the broader population, it’s opposed 53 percent to 36 percent.
In another finding, by a 73 percent to 18 percent margin, Americans do not believe that President Obama will keep his promise to cut the deficit. What’s especially shocking, is that less than a third of Democrats — just 32 percent — believe he will keep his promise.
It’s worth keeping in mind that for Democrats to win in conservative states or districts, they must be able to win independents, and at least have a respectable showing among Republicans. This health care bill won’t make it much better.
The Commerce Department has revised third quarter GDP down, again. Unfortunately, what originally appeared to be fairly strong growth of 3.5 percent was first downgraded to 2.8 percent, and now again to 2.2 percent. While not that much of a difference, the point is that in the best case scenario we would be seeing evidence of a fast, robust recovery. 2.2 percent, inflated by stimulus measures like Cash for Clunkers, signals that a slower and weaker recovery is more likely.
James Pethokoukis guesses that mere 2 percent growth heading into the 2010 midterm elections translates inoto a “1994-esque” scenario with the Democrats losing 40-plus seats in the House and five-plus Senate seats. When he makes that prediction, though, he’s assuming a relationship between GDP growth and jobs that may not apply to the current scenario. If job growth lags behind even anemic GDP growth, I wonder where that puts the Democrats.
Below is the memo Quin linked to in its entirety.
MEMO FOR THE MOVEMENT:
The Individual Mandate in “Obamacare” is Unconstitutional
RE: The mandate under the Obama-Pelosi-Reid healthcare legislation requiring American citizens to purchase health insurance violates the U.S. Constitution.
ACTION: We urge you to make this point to members of the U.S. Senate-and if a bill passes the Senate to impress upon members of both chambers of Congress-that the key provision in the healthcare legislation violates the U.S. Constitution.
As the Washington Times argued on Friday, the silver bullet that SHOULD be used to kill this Obamacare monstrosity is criticism of the indidvidual mandate, which is incredibly unpopular.
Now, a group of major leaders of the conservative movement have just put out a memo to this effect:
MEMO FOR THE MOVEMENT:
The Individual Mandate in “Obamacare” is Unconstitutional
RE: The mandate under the Obama-Pelosi-Reid healthcare legislation requiring American citizens to purchase health insurance violates the U.S. Constitution. ….
The memo is too long for me to post the whole thing here right now, but I am trying to get a link to the whole thing and will post it if I do. But movement leaders are right: It is unconstitutional. And it is the ground on which our senators should have been fighting all along, because it is incredibly unpopular as well.
Hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters openly challenged the authority of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, today by mourning the death of a dissident cleric who had questioned Khamenei’s fitness to rule.
…the event turned into the opposition Green Movement’s biggest show of strength in months. The sheer numbers - including many wearing the opposition’s signature colour of green - seemed to confirm the Islamic regime’s fears that Montazeri’s death could provide a fresh spark for the simmering discontent over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hotly disputed re-election last June.
There are reports of clashes with pro-government forces, of course. The Obama Administration issued a statement of condolences, the subtext of which is support for the Green Movement, though Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon suggests (albeit with somewhat vague sourcing) that some in the opposition would like a little more support from Washington:
Mr. Montazeri in November gave an address from his home in the holy city of Qom and publicly condemned the hostage-taking of U.S. diplomats in Tehran after the Shah’s fall. Members of the opposition movement said that Mr. Montazeri’s comments were designed as a signal to Mr. Obama and the U.S. that the Green Movement sought better ties with Washington. A number of opposition leaders subsequently voiced frustration that the White House didn’t more publicly respond to Mr. Montazeri’s comments.
On Sunday, the White House praised the once fierce U.S. critic for his efforts to promote democracy and human rights in his country. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who seek to exercise the universal rights and freedoms that he so consistently advocated,” National Security Council spokesman Michael Hammer said.
Many Iran watchers, however, believe the Obama administration will ultimately have to more closely align itself with the Iranian opposition movement. Few expect Tehran’s theocrats to respond in any meaningful way to Mr. Obama’s diplomatic overtures. And they also believe Iran’s opposition movement will strengthen as Iran’s flagging economy fuels domestic opposition to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Still, U.S. officials indicated Sunday that the Obama administration will remain very much focused on international efforts to contain Tehran’s nuclear program.
If the Obama administration is soft-pedaling its support for the Green Movement because they think the opposition will be more effective if it isn’t seen as too close to Washington, that’s defensible (though if it’s true that opposition leaders want more support from Washington, they should get it). But if the administration is keeping the Green Movement at arms length in pursuit of arms negotiations with the ruling regime, that’s, well, not so defensible.
Erick Erickson beat me to the punch on Mitch McConnell’s record. When has this guy as leader actually won something rather than going down to a supposedly noble defeat? Here’s what is pathetic: With more than 60 percent of the public opposing the health care bill, and a huge proportion of that number STRONGLY opposing it, the EASY part should have been holding all 40 Republican senators, and it should have been eminently doable to pick off just one of 60 Democrats (or Dem-caucusing independents). But how many times did Mitch McConnell actually meet with Ben Nelson? With Blanche Lincoln? With Jim Webb? With Bill Nelson? WIth Jon Tester or Mark Begich? How many times did he work with them to find out what they would need in order to help kill the bill? You know, conservatives in general are pretty silly about complaining about Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson being “bought off.” That’s how the game has been played since time immemorial, and Ronald Reagan played it with the best of them. (Remember John Breaux’s quip that he wasn’t for sale, but he was for rent? Well, it was Reagan who rented him, quite happily.) So why wasn’t McConnell out there making deals with Nelson or Lincoln? Or, if not “deals,” why not at least woo them, converse with them, stroke their egos? Why wasn’t he willing to let Tom Ciburn force a reading of the whole bill before the Senate moved to open debate on it? Why wasn’t he focused on the incredibly unpopular individual mandate in the bill, which really could be a silver bullet to defeat it by putting the Dems on the spot? Why not use every procedural trick in the book to slow this thing down until after Christmas, in order to make wavering senators again have to face the wrath of their constituents?
How can he NOT be able to pick off even one Democrat, facing the polls against the bill that the Dems face?
We’ve seen this before. McConnell talked a good game on confirming Bush’s judges, until he actually had to deliver. Then he caved. (Actually, he caved on judges several times.) And he and his team did not focus on the right issues needed to make a vote for Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court a much harder vote for the Dems.
Somehow, under the current leadership, the GOP has fallen from 55 senators to 40. And they keep losing on vote after vote after vote. If McConnell and his team are such geniuses at legislative maneuvering, we would know it by their string of victories. Oops. What victories? When, pray tell, did they ever win a tough fight against the odds? Hell, when did they even win a tough fight when the odds were 50-50?
Two cloture votes remain in the Senate before the Reid bill gets passed. Yet today’s Roll Call reports that “GOP Considering Throwing in Towel.” (Sorry, the link works for subscribers only.) Why throw in the towel? Because McConnell and company appear to think they will lose anyway, so they may as well go home for Christmas.
That’s just stupid. They should keep the pressure on. They should continue to say that there is no reason to rush it through before Christmas, that if there is a vote on Christmas Eve it is the Dems’ fault, that the public deserves time to read and discuss the final version of this thing. They should force the Dems to pull every procedural trick in the book in order to force a vote — and, if the GOP can, be alert to find some way, any way, to trip the Dems up procedurally, which actually can happen because exhausted senators have been known to make mistakes. And then, if the vote does come, call it the “Christmas Eve Massacre,” and run commercials against it while it is being negotiated in Conference with the House. You can’t run commercials calling it the Christmas Eve Massacre if you give up and let the Dems pass it before Christmas Eve.
The long and short of it is, this isn’t an ordinary bill. This bill is the spearpoint, the poisoned spearpoint, that could kill the republic. This is the single most important domestic political fight of our lives, in terms of individual pieces of legislation. The goal of Republican senators, IF they truly are against this bill, should not be “positioning” for elections in 2010 (yeah — as if any of McConnell’s past positioning has worked — NOT!); the goal should be to beat this bill by all means available, and to fight it until there isn’t breath left in the opponents’ bodies to fight with.
I forgot who wrote it, but there is an old poem talking about those who would storm the fortress of folly, against all odds. Its key lines are these: “When the forts of folly fall, may they find my body by the wall.” Somehow, I don’t see that attitude from McConnell and his henchmen. They seem, from this vantage point, to care more for theiir precious political bodies than for the cause of freedom. I wait with bated breath for the day when they show willingness to let their bodies fall while attempting to scale the walls. The truth is, sometimes by being willing to fall, you actually survive, and climb, and win. That’s what the “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” did on D-Day. McConnell could learn from them: You don’t win a war for freedom unless you are willing to risk yourself in the effort.
All these guys do is lose. For shame.
As the Senate health care bill lurches toward enactment, how much blame should Republicans bear? Ross Douthat says, “Between the defeat of Clintoncare and the election of Barack Obama, the Republicans had plenty of chances to take ownership of the health care issue and pass a significant reform along more free-market, cost-effective lines. They didn’t.” Ramesh Ponnuru responds, “Let’s not forget that at no point during that period did the Republicans have anything like the Democrats’ current strength in Washington…. the collapse of Lehman Brothers did more to get Democrats to this point than any strategic mistake of the GOP on health care.”
There’s truth in both viewpoints: The Republicans never had the opportunity to pass something as sweeping as the Democratic health care bill. Their majorities were too narrow, arguably even after the 2004 elections, when they were soon adrift as a result of Iraq and Katrina in any event. But it’s equally true that the Republicans never worked very hard to popularize the idea that a free-market alternative existed in the first place. When they did pass big health care legislation, initiatives that reinforced the Democratic health care vision — Kennedy-Kassebaum, SCHIP, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit — loomed larger than modest expansions of health savings accounts and the drug benefit’s Medicare Advantage component.
Republican free-market health care plans tend to get proposed during presidential campaigns or efforts to defeat Democratic legislation, and then quickly shelved after the election is over or the Democratic legislation is defeated. That might not be the only or even the most important reason the Democrats seem likely to pass a health care bill, but it surely didn’t help.
Last week, I posted about Rand Paul’s success so far in his campaign for the U.S. Senate and what it could mean for the mainstreaming of traditional conservative ideas like constitutionally limited government, sound money, and a less interventionist foreign policy. Then there was this news: a spokesman for Paul had to quit the campaign after being associated with a website that espoused racism and the belief that the U.S. government bore some responsiblity for 9/11*.
The Rand Paul campaign was much quicker and more forthright in distancing itself from the staffer’s website than his father was in handling the newsletter controversy during the 2008 presidential campaign. But both this and the Ron Paul newsletters flap show that everytime Paulite views on government, economics, and foreign policy get a mainstream hearing, there are racists, kooks, and 9/11 nutters in the Paul camp standing by to drag those ideas back into the fever swamps.
The early conservative movement had to overcome similar problems — albeit by a process with which Old Right types have considerable problems, if you know your movement history. But as Ross Douthat noted last year, their resistance to policing their own movement is contributing mightily to its marginalization. To have a real impact, candidates like the Pauls have to keep pushing their arguments into the mainstream and resisting those who would relegate them to the margins — which includes a nontrivial number of people who claim to be their supporters and allies.
UPDATE: I originally referred to “9/11 trutherism” on the part of the former Paul staffer. A reader points out that the example furnished in the linked news story shows the ex-staffer espousing blowback, not the truther view that 9/11 was an “inside job.” I think blowback is an oversimplification and the letter was badly worded, but I take the point this is different from trutherism. But there is no question that a lot of 9/11 truthers have found their way inside the Paul movement.
A new CNN poll finds an uptick in support for the Senate health care bill (coming mostly from Democrats), but Americans still overwhelmingly oppose the legislation.
Released today, the poll finds that Americans oppose health care legislation by a 56 percent to 42 percent margin, which is an improvement from the 61 percent to 36 percent opposition in a poll released earlier this month.
According to CNN Polling Director Keating Holland: “Virtually all the increase in support for the Senate health care bill has come from Democrats, with a 10-point increase since early December.”
Health insurance stocks are climbing in early trading as investors react to the news that Democrats’ health care bill cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate. The bill would force all individuals to purchase insurance, and would offer hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to help some of them do so. At the same time, the bill does not include a “public option” that would have been able to use government bargaining power to help drive them out of business.
Morgan Stanley’s index of health insurance stocks is up nearly 4 percent as I write, and this morning it reached its highest level in 18 months (see chart). The index is up 14 percent since December 4.
As for the insurers that comprise the index, here’s how some of them have performed today:
Aetna is up 5 percent
Cigna is up 6 percent
Humana is up 4 percent
UnitedHealth is up 5 percent
Wellpoint is up 4 percent
(Full list here).
Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are often knocked around by conservatives for their liberal voting records, but this morning, both of them voted against health care legislation. They come from a state that President Obama carried by 18 points, and if anything, the risk of voting against the bill was higher than the risk of voting for it. By holding their ground, they made it more difficult for Senate Majority Harry Reid to put together 60 votes, and helped make it necessary for him to sacrifice the public option. Politically, it denies President Obama the ability to claim any bipartisan support, and in the coming elections, it means that Republicans can run against every Democrat in the Senate as the 60th and deciding vote.
As conservatives continue the ongoing debate about when it makes sense to support conservative insurgent candidates, the experience of Snowe and Collins is worth keeping in mind. Both of them have liberal voting records on a number of issues and wouldn’t be the ideal choice of any conservatives. But at the same time, any true conservative would get demolished in a general election in a state like Maine. If Reid had two additional liberal Democrats in the Senate instead of Snowe and Collins, this could have ended up even worse.
On a straight party line vote held after 1 a.m., Democrats just voted 60 to 40 to cut off debate on Sen. Harry Reid’s final changes to the health care bill.
In the coming days, there will be a number of procedural votes leading up to final passage, which is expected on Christmas Eve. But that’s all a formality at this point. Democrats will get a health care bill through the Senate.
By voting in the middle of the night to block a Republican filibuster attempt, Democrats took a big step toward passing health legislation, but they’ll still encounter a number of obstacles before President Obama can sign it into law.
The version that passed the House of Representatives has both a
public option and stronger abortion language. Liberals and
pro-life Democrats in the House are promising a fight during the
conference that will merge the two bills, and any concessions to
them could upset the delicate balance in the Senate that allowed
Majority Leader Harry Reid to cobble together 60 votes. With that
said, so far Democrats have proven willing to cut whatever deals
they need to in order to get a health care bill across the finish
line, and that same dynamic is likely to play out during the
Sunday’s speech by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), comparing opponents of the health-care bill to Nazis, drew a response from Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.):
“For the most part, I certainly recall the long conversations that the ranking Republican, Sen. Grassley, and the chairman of the committee had. I know they worked in good faith and it would be best if we did that. It’s to that end that I want to speak to some comments that a colleague earlier made today, and I don’t know whether it’s frustration or maybe just the lens through which partisans view things and their opponents, unfortunately, that spawned the remarks earlier today from one of our Democratic colleagues. But in either event, his characterization of his Republican colleagues, I think, requires response… .
“Now, I wouldn’t believe my ears, these references to one of the first and most vicious attacks on the Jews by Nazis, hanging of blacks. The majority leader’s remarks last week comparing the Republicans’ position on health care to the pro-slavery movement were largely ignored as the clumsy offhand ramblings of a partisan, but the references earlier today appeared to be not off-the-cuff mistakes but prepared text, deliberately delivered by one of the brightest minds of the Senate… .
“There are honorable people on both sides of the aisle who obviously have to agree to disagree. But our colleague attributes no good motive to Republicans whose ‘passions’ are simply ‘malignant’ and ‘vindictive.’ … I wonder if my colleagues really believe that our position is animated by hatred. Why else would we oppose this legislation? …
“Does my colleague really believe that this is why I oppose the legislation, or my colleague, John McCain? … I don’t like this bill. That’s why I oppose it… .
“But finally, my colleague turned the world upside-down by arguing about the only reason that we’re here the week before Christmas is because of Republican bad behavior, that we ruined the holidays … because we followed the procedures of the Senate that require the reading of the bill… The reason it’s read is so our staff would in fact have time to read it, to advise us — we didn’t all have time to read it ourselves — and to advise the public, our constituents, of what’s in it. Again, we received it yesterday, we’re voting on it tonight. That’s very little time to know everything that’s in there, and the more we learn about what’s in there, the angrier a lot of people get… .
“This is why we oppose the bill. It’s why we don’t like the process. We respect what our constituents are telling us. We believe this bill will be bad for them and it will be bad for our country. Our Democratic colleagues have a different position. Neither their position nor ours is malignant, nor should they be expressed vindictively.”
This afternoon, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) gave a speech in which he quoted Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” and accused ObamaCare opponents of inciting “vindictive passions”:
“Far from appealing to the better angels of our nature, too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear. History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds, broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from Southern trees. Even this great institution of government that we share has cowered before a tail-gunner waving secret lists.” (Emphasis added.)
A full text of Sen. Whitehouse’s remarks is not yet available, but at this moment, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is rebutting the Democrat’s accusations. And, by the way, that Senate tail-gunner was right about one thing: There were indeed Soviet agents in the State Department.
UPDATE: More from the Whitehouse speech, referring to Hofstadter’s “paranoid style” thesis:
“Vindictive passions often arise, [Hofstadter] points out, when an aggrieved minority believes that America has been taken away from them their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. Does that sound familiar … in this health debate? … [Hofstadter] wrote of the dangers of an aggrieved right-wing minority with the power to create what he called a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”
It’s interesting — but probably no accident — that the first Republican to respond to Whitehouse’s provocative remarks was Kyl of Arizona. In 1964, Hofstadter’s essay was taken as an analysis of the conservative supporters of another Arizona Republican, Barry Goldwater.
By the way, these quotes are taken from an audio rush transcript of Sen. Whitehouse’s speech, the official text of which has not yet been published.
UPDATE II: More from the transcript of the Whitehouse speech:
“[Republicans have engaged in] a campaign of falsehood about death panels and cuts to Medicare benefits and benefits for illegal aliens and bureaucrats to be parachuted in between you and your doctor. Our colleagues terrify the public with this parade of imagined horrors. They whip up concerns and anxiety about socialized medicine and careening deficits and then they tell use the public is concerned about the bill.”
UPDATE III: Accusing the bill’s opponents of inflaming “unprecedented passions,” Whitehouse blamed the GOP for the extension of the health-care debate into the Christmas holiday:
“We see it in bad behavior. We see it in the long hours of reading by the clerks our Republican colleagues have forced. We see it in Christmases and holidays ruined by the Republicans for our loyal and professional Senate employees. It’s fine for me. It’s fine for the president. We signed up for the his job, but why ruin it for all the employees condemned by the Republicans to be here?”
UPDATE IV: If you voted Republican, here is how Sen. Whitehouse describes you:
“Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our young president. They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The ‘birthers,’ the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militias and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Obama should exist.”
OK, so much for all those Aryan militia fanatics who vote Republican, what does Sen. Whitehouse think of the Senators those voters elected?
“Our colleagues are behaving in this way – unprecedented, malignant and vindictive – because they are desperate to avoid that day of judgment, frantic and desperate now and willing to strange and unprecedented things, willing to do anything, even throw our troops at war in the way of that day of reckoning. If they can cause this bill to fail, the truth will never stand up as a living reproach to the lies that have been told… . But when the bill passes and this program actually comes to life . . . there will come a day of judgment, and our Republican friends know that. That, Mr. President, is why they are terrified.”
There you have it, then: Nazis and militia kooks elect lying Republican senators who ruin Christmas and who oppose the bill only because they want to “break” the president and are terrified that if the bill passes, it will expose how they’ve engaged in fear-mongering propaganda.
Amazing that in his 1,700 word speech, Sen. Whitehouse didn’t find time to accuse his opponents of being “divisive” and “polarizing.”
UPDATE V: Excerpts of Sen. Jon Kyle’s response.
Hossein Ali Montazeri was always deeply inconvenient to the Iranian regime — one of the most senior clerics in the country, he was unafraid to denounce the bloody tyranny wrought by the Islamic revolution he had supported. Until 1989, when he objected to the execution of thousands of government opponents and thus had a falling out with Ruhollah Khomenei, he was seen as next in line to be Supreme Leader (the job, of course, went to Ali Khamenei, despite his being an Ayatollah of the non-“Grand” variety and therefore outranked by Montazeri). Montazeri spent the next two decades criticizing the regime, sometimes from under house arrest, and was a supporter of the opposition movement that drew protestors to the streets of Iran in the wake of the obviously fraudulent election results earlier this year. And because of his clerical credentials, the regime could never bring themselves to silence him.
He died in his sleep last night at the age of 87, reportedly of heart failure. His supporters’ demonstrations of mourning have the potential to spark a major confrontation:
Senior opposition leaders, including the former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karoubi, immediately began urging supporters to flock to the holy city of Qum for his funeral on Monday. And the Iranian authorities were clearly bracing for a showdown there: there were reports Sunday of riot police forces already gathering in the city, and Iranian news sites said the government was planning to close the main highway between Tehran and Qum.
In Tehran, hundreds of protesters marched at Tehran University and at the University of Science and Industrys, chanting, “Montazeri is alive!” And an opposition Web site, Peykeiran, reported that demonstrators set fire to two buses in the ayatollah’s hometown, Najafabad, and that riot police were opposing them there.
Large opposition protests had also been planned on the religious holiday of Ashura, on Dec. 27. That will coincide with the seventh day after Ayatollah Montazeri’s death, an important marker in Shiite mourning ritual.
Here’s a YouTube video of protesters in Tehran.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who may be unaware that he is currently enjoying his final term in the U.S. Senate, claims to have the 60 votes he needs to muscle ObamaCare through his chamber. God help us if he does.
The current iteration of ObamaCare is classic Mussolini-style Fascism (i.e. corporatism). It forces Americans at gunpoint to purchase health insurance, a requirement never before imposed on the American people. The big insurance companies and the federal government have combined to subject the public to this tyrannical mandate that Americans overwhelmingly oppose. This is the economic essence of Fascism.
Shame on them on all.
Nonetheless, William Kristol of the Weekly Standard offers some words of encouragement to the patriotic Americans who still believe in limited government.
Keep fighting on health care. Fight for the next few days in the Senate. Fight the conference report in January in the Senate and the House. Start trying to repeal the worst parts of the bill the moment it passes, if it does.
After all, never before has so unpopular a piece of major legislation been jammed through on a party-line vote. This week, Rasmussen showed 57% of voters nationwide saying that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress, with only 34% favoring passing that bill. 54% of Americans now believe they will be worse off if reform passes, while just 25% believe they’ll be better off. Making the 2010 elections a referendum on health care should work—if Republicans don’t let up in the debate over the next year.
Indeed ObamaCare may be the Democrats’ undoing. They are betting it all on their healthcare plan, which won’t kick in for years to come. A public backlash before then could halt the program in its tracks and kill it, leading to a Bastille Day-like slaughter at the polls for the Democratic powers that be.
Of course, it would be better to abort this monstrosity while in the womb, but the beauty of politics is that the fight is never really over. There will be more battles to come.
As Kristol writes, “Fight on with respect to health care. Fight on other fronts. And recruit new fighters. In a word: Fight. ”
Eritrea is a tragic country in a tragic continent. Created out of Ethiopia after years of conflict, the nation of four million is one of the most repressive in Africa. Now the soccer team has defected. The whole soccer tesm.
Eritrea’s entire national soccer team is seeking asylum in Kenya, joining tens of thousands of compatriots who have fled one of Africa’s most repressive governments.
The team absconded after traveling to Nairobi for a regional tournament. Eritrea, with only about 4 million people, was the second-biggest source of asylum seekers in the world last year, and the missing players are probably the highest-profile defectors since the country won independence in 1993.
The 11 players and one substitute were reported missing over the weekend when the team plane returned to Eritrea without them after a match against Tanzania.
After going into hiding, the players contacted the U.N. refugee agency in Nairobi, which directed them to file asylum applications at Kenya’s Immigration Ministry.
Nicholas Musonye, a Kenyan soccer official who first alerted the authorities to the missing players, said: “I have been informed by the tour guide who was with them that they are in Nairobi and have been seeking political asylum.”
The number of Eritrean asylum seekers worldwide last year was second only to the total from Zimbabwe, according to the United Nations.
People are fleeing a combination of political repression, food shortages, open-ended military service and a moribund economy.
This may be a record. For years individuals and groups defected from the Soviet Union, Cuba, Eastern Europe, and other communist “people’s paradises.” But an entire team!?
Perhaps the army will next defect. Then the Eritrean people could be free.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online